Meet a Young Thinker in Residence 

By Meg Hill

The links between LGBTI identity and homelessness have only recently started to become a topic of discussion in society. The correlation has always been pretty clear to the LGBTI community.

When one recognises that for young people in general, a leading factor in homelessness is being kicked out of home, it is pretty obvious how this would disproportionately affect those who are LGBTI.

This is just one of a number of factors which lead to their higher representation.

Research and statistics are still severely lacking. A 2014 report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlighted that 34 per cent of people identifying as gay or lesbian had experienced homelessness, compared to 13 per cent of heterosexual people.

The report placed those who identified with a sexuality other than gay/lesbian and heterosexual into one group – “other”. Further, there was no statistics on the transgender population. And that’s about it when it comes to available national data.

All this makes Moumen Omar’s story all the more important. Mouman has just been announced as the Youth Affairs Council Victoria’s (YACVIC) Young Thinker in Residence in partnership with the Melbourne City Mission (MCM).

Their topic of research is youth homelessness and its relationship to QTPOC (queer, transgender, people of colour) young people. The topic is close to home. Mouman, a young, queer, person of colour, has lived experience of homelessness.

“I identify as queer, bisexual, non-binary or trans and I’m black,” Mouman said.

The 24-year-old has been in Melbourne for a year, having moved here from Perth in desperation.

“When I came to Melbourne I did it to get out of a difficult situation I was in. I was in a tricky place with a lot of toxic people, in a toxic environment,” Mouman said.

“I was doing things that were dangerous to myself. I was not happy at all and my headspace was messed up.”

Mouman came to Melbourne with an Airbnb booked for a few days.

“The next thing I knew I was homeless. I was also homeless before I came to Melbourne. I was couch-surfing for the last month or so and I didn’t think I was homeless.”

Mouman says one of the biggest challenges that they had to navigate was asking for help. While moving to Melbourne and not knowing anyone was, in a way, a “blessing in disguise” in the form of a clean slate. The particulars of Mouman’s identity were still extremely hard to explain to other people.

“I didn’t have to pretend I was okay, because they don’t know who I was. But I had to then educate them – it’s because I’m black, or I’m queer, or I’m non-binary.”

“My blackness is something I can’t hide, so that’s always something that some people will react to in certain ways.”

“My queerness is something that I can hide, but sometimes I don’t. Especially if I’m asking for help, that person needs me to be vulnerable, so I’d be open but they sometimes wouldn’t understand what it means to be queer.”

This is what Mouman wants to start tackling in this residency – working directly with young people, while guiding the organisations in the right direction.

“I want to look into the organisations and see how they’re operating, how they are supporting these people, what’s working, what’s not working, just collecting that data.”

“And then presenting it to young people too – this service works in this way, this one doesn’t,” Mouman said.

Mouman says it would have made all the difference if there were people around them who understood, or who asked the right questions.

“It was obvious I was queer and people would be, like, are you gay? And I’d say no I’m not, but I’d think ‘but I’m not straight’. For the longest time I didn’t know what I was.”

“I want to start that conversation. It’s a stepping stone. I want to go to these organisations and raise these questions and create this dialogue.”

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